Family history and podcasting fun

Cover photo: AI artistic rendering of an old man on his way to work in Constantinople in 1882.

Long time no see! As any graduate student would tell you (and you’re probably sick of hearing it), it’s been a busy semester. But that doesn’t mean blogging should stop.

Niġel’s family tree, leading to Vincenzo Puglisevich.

In this post, I’m going to spend some time discussing family history research and making it into a podcast.

As part of one of my courses this semester (Digital Public History), we were tasked with making a podcast. Podcasts are well known and often used by public history institutions (whether that’s successful or not is a different discussion), so why not try our hands at it? If you know anything about me, conducting family history research is basically a personality trait, so naturally I opted to do a podcast on this subject. Which was a challenge, because I’m not a natural podcaster by any means. But let’s talk about the research.

Introducing Vincenzo Puglisevich, a Maltese 19th century newspaper printer in Constantinople, aka my 4x great-grandfather.

Vincenzo has been a bit of a challenge for me, in terms of research. First of all, there isn’t a whole lot of accessible data. He was born in 1802 in Birkirkara, Malta, and later moved to Constantinople in the 1820s. Accessing genealogical records in Istanbul (not Constantinple) is very difficult to do without actually travelling there and visiting the archives (which, believe me, I’d love to do). I have no concrete records about Vincenzo’s life in Constantinople, or of his death.

But, through simply Googling his name, it doesn’t take long until you come across a record held in the National Archives (UK) at Kew. This is no ordinary record, either—it’s a lawsuit, filed by Vincenzo against Edgar Whitaker, in 1890. Now, why would an 88 year-old Maltese man be filing a lawsuit in Constantinople? In 2019, through WalkMyPast, a woman named Carole Steers volunteered to visit the archives and photograph the records for me. I’m still extremely grateful for that. Without her, it would’ve taken me much longer to see this record.

After reading through the records, I started to understand that Vincenzo sued Edgar Whitaker, essentially, for not being paid for his work, overtime, and extra tasks assigned by Whitaker. Whitaker was the owner of the Levant Herald, an English/French newspaper that ran throughout the 19th century and into the beginning of the 20th century. Vincenzo was the manager of the print office, and he was promoted to that position by Whitaker. The records from the lawsuit are thorough, right down to every penny he sued for and even correspondence with his son, who had a print shop in Valletta, Malta. But the record is incomplete. It ends just as things were getting started.

Family lore has it that Vincenzo was murdered. I think it makes for an exciting story—an old man fighting for financial justice within his work, and then ends up a martyr for his own cause, his name forgotten to time. Is that the truth of it? I have no idea yet. In all reality, he could’ve died of old age. But I’ll continue to entertain the story that Edgar murdered, or perhaps hired hitmen to take out, his elderly employee, to not risk the name of the Levant Herald getting much worse than it already was.

I could say more, but I won’t. I’ll leave it to my podcast to tell the rest of the details…

Feel free to shoot me an email if you have any feedback! I’d love to know if you loved it, or hated it.

About the Author

Niġel Klemenčič-Puglisevich

MA Public History student at the University of Western Ontario.

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